What is Rhabdomyolysis?

March 25, 2024

What is Rhabdomyolysis?
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The disorder known as rhabdomyolysis causes your muscles to disintegrate, or break down, ultimately resulting in muscle death. Your kidneys and circulatory system are exposed to harmful parts of your muscle fibres when this occurs. This may harm the kidneys.

Excessive exercise, injuries, drugs, or underlying medical conditions can all lead to this risky muscle disorder. Muscle soreness, stiffness, weakness, and changes in urine colour are common indications of rhabdomyolysis.

Defining Rhabdomyolysis

A dangerous syndrome called rhabdomyolysis is brought on by direct or indirect muscular damage. It happens when muscle fibres break down and their contents spill into the blood. Large amounts of potassium and other components like myoglobin, phosphate, creatine kinase and urate of your muscles seep into your bloodstream as a result.

Serious side effects like renal (kidney) failure may result from this. This indicates that waste and concentrated urine cannot be eliminated by the kidneys.

Rhabdomyolysis can occasionally even be fatal. But early intervention usually yields positive results. 

Causes of rhabdomyolysis

Myoglobin, a protein, is released into the bloodstream when muscle is injured. The kidneys then remove it from the body through filtration. Substances that can harm renal cells are produced when myoglobin breaks down.

Any ailment that weakens skeletal muscle can result in rhabdomyolysis.

Issues that could cause this illness include:

  • Trauma or injury: Severe burns, particularly those involving a vast surface area, electrocution, or crushing injuries can quickly lead to the breakdown of muscle fibres. Rhabdomyolysis is frequently caused by a crushing accident.
  • High-intensity exercise: When your muscles don’t have enough time to recover after a strenuous workout, starting an exercise routine too soon can result in rhabdomyolysis.
  • Excessive heat and dehydration: Heat accelerates the breakdown of muscles. Lack of water prevents your kidneys from eliminating waste from your body.
  • Medication: Certain drugs, such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, and antivirals, might lead to the breakdown of muscles. 
  • Substance abuse disorder: The toxic effects of heroin, LSD, cocaine, and alcohol can lead to the degeneration of your muscles.
  • Extended durations of inactivity: Rhabdomyolysis can occur in people who fall, lose consciousness, and are unable to stand up for a long time.
  • Certain medical disorders: Rhabdomyolysis can result from genetic illnesses such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy and McArdle disease. Rhabdomyolysis is also more likely in certain metabolic or mitochondrial disorders.

Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis

The severity of rhabdomyolysis symptoms varies. Though some people may not even experience muscular soreness, symptoms often appear one to three days following a muscle injury.

Additionally, some individuals encounter:

  • muscle swelling 
  • feeble muscles
  • tense, aching muscles
  • reddish-brown, or dark urine
  • hydration loss
  • less frequent urination
  • queasy feeling
  • awareness loss

Risk Factors for rhabdomyolysis

Anybody can experience rhabdomyolysis. However, the following factors may increase your risk of having rhabdomyolysis:

  • Rhabdomyolysis is more common in runners who complete marathons, spin instructors, and other participants in high-intensity interval training. This is not a condition brought on by occasional endurance exercises. If you exert too much effort without taking breaks, your danger goes up.
  • This condition can be developed by those who perform intense physical labour in hot environments, such as firefighters and foundry workers. Rhabdomyolysis can be brought on by overheating or might facilitate it more easily.
  • Rhabdomyolysis is more common among persons serving in the armed forces, particularly in boot camp or during intensive training.
  • Over 65-year-old people may be more vulnerable to falling and becoming incapacitated. Prolonged inactivity may result in rhabdomyolysis.

 Complications of rhabdomyolysis

Rhabdomyolysis complications might result in:

  • Kidney failure or renal impairment is a common side-effect of rhabdomyolysis.
  • Extremely high blood potassium levels, which can cause cardiac arrest or irregular pulse.
  • Fluid resuscitation due to rhabdomyolysis may potentially result in the development of compartment syndrome. This severe compression of blood vessels, muscles, and nerves can result in tissue injury and blood flow issues.
  • Another complication developing due to rhabdomyolysis causes anomalies in electrolyte levels.

Treatment for rhabdomyolysis

Most rhabdo patients can return to work in a few days if they receive treatment quickly and without any long-term impairments. Options for treatment are determined by the severity of the rhabdo. By using blood tests, electrocardiograms, etc., only a medical professional can ascertain how serious it is.

Treatment options for less serious situations include:

  • Taking in liquids
  • Venturing outside of the heat
  • Sleeping
  • Hospital admission and intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary in situations ranging from moderate to severe.

Preventing rhabdomyolysis

Some ways to prevent rhabdomyolysis are to: 

  • Steer clear of medications or chemicals that can trigger rhabdomyolysis.
  • By consuming a lot of liquids after intense workout.
  • In the event of heat stroke, taking off excess clothing and submerging the body in cold water.


A rare muscular injury called rhabdomyolysis causes your muscles to break down. This potentially fatal ailment may arise from an accident or from overexertion without adequate rest. Speak with your healthcare practitioner if you experience symptoms such as changes in the colour of your urine and weak, achy muscles.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is rhabdomyolysis hereditary?

Rhabdomyolysis is not hereditary. You may be more susceptible to certain hereditary problems if you have them. If you have a hereditary muscle disorder such as muscular dystrophy, you may develop rhabdomyolysis.

2. If I have rhabdomyolysis, how can I tell?

Rhabdomyolysis may be the cause if, a few days after working out, your muscles are really weak or sore. Dark urine and muscular edema are more things to watch out for. See your doctor straight away if you experience any of these symptoms so that you can be checked for rhabdomyolysis and treated if necessary.

3. If I have rhabdomyolysis, what should I anticipate?

See a doctor as soon as possible if you experience rhabdomyolysis symptoms. A fatal case of rhabdomyolysis is possible. Your recovery depends on an early diagnosis and course of treatment.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.


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